‘Insurgent’ is the sequel to last year’s ‘Divergent’. Based on Veronica Roth’s ‘Divergent’ book series the franchise is a classic example of current Hollywood commercial film-making. Adapting a popular teen-based fantasy novel franchise, Tinsletown has been awash with like-minded works. ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Twilight’, ‘The Hunger Games’ are amongst others that have stuck to this formula. Just as bland and indifferent, ‘Insurgent’ barely differentiates itself from the recent cult of book-to-screen mania.
Still desperate to save her world, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is ready for arms. Helped by Four (Theo James), she aims to be free of the clutches of Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the powerful leader of the evil Erudite faction. Battling a new swathe of enemies they search for clues to succeed in their quest. Finding fresh obstacles, their resolve is tested as their families feel the wrath of their antagonists.
‘Insurgent’ rests a lot on Woodley’s shoulders. She gives a fine performance as the angst-ridden heroine fighting for freedom. The way her character battles her way to uncovering secrets and lies makes Woodley’s role memorable. Unfortunately not much else can be said for the rest of the film. Whilst competently directed by Robert Schwentke, the shadows of similar movies loom large. The plot, characters and overall style make ‘Insurgent’ as forgettable and disposable as its filmic brethren.
Making it barely stand out are the pacing and excellently staged action scenes. Schwentke shows his forte in these sequences with the story’s theme of embracing individuality well integrated. The irony is Woodley’s co-stars barely register due to their character’s blandness. None make any impact with their personalities giving way to eye-popping CGI and gunplay. It builds towards the inevitable sequel leaving enough intrigue to muster some enthusiasm for the follow-up.
‘Insurgent’ is a serviceable effort without being memorable. Those who have seen comparable films don’t need to see this. Had it been more original it may have passed muster. That means little when the dollars roll in and Hollywood creates another facsimile in order to make more.
Rating out of 10: 5
‘Run All Night’ is Liam Neeson’s umpteenth movie for the year. Seemingly making a film a week, his thespian ubiquity hasn’t gone unnoticed. Whilst this vast output has produced some clunkers, ‘Run All Night’ isn’t one of them. Utilising much from Neeson’s bag of tricks, admirers will be pleased. Fast paced, edgy and featuring plenty of the death stares for which he is known, ‘Run All Night’ is a respectable addition to his gallery of tough anti-heroes.
Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) will do anything to protect his family. A feared hit-man, his skills are needed when his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) becomes a victim of a home invasion. Finding and killing the intruder, Jimmy is shocked to discover the culprit is the son of his former boss Shawn (Ed Harris). Swearing bloody retribution, Shawn vows to destroy Jimmy’s life. Desperate to protect his loved ones, Jimmy wages a deadly battle against former friends and foes in order to survive.
Neeson’s claim as a ‘21st Century Charles Bronson’ is assured with ‘Run All Night’. Set in the seedy world in which Bronson’s ragged characters used to reside, it is an excellent mix of thrills and action. His role is less heroic than usual giving him a chance to display range. Conlon isn’t a nice guy and is as sleazy as the people he kills. Setting him apart is a warped code of honour and past regrets. His shot at redemption arrives when his family are in peril. Only then can he make peace with the demons driving him.
Much of the success lies in the strong direction and performances which successfully combine to fully immerse viewers into New York’s mean streets. This allows total engagement in the character’s plights bringing the story’s sense of scale. Set mostly at night, the camera swoops into grimy domains with gusto. Whilst occasionally dragging, the screenplay conjures authenticity which helps in understanding Conlon’s actions and rugged world-view.
Even though his recent output has been vast, Liam Neeson needn’t be ashamed of ‘Run All Night’. One of his better movies, it matches his skills with a solid script sure to cement his place as cinema’s leading action-hero lights.
Rating out of 10: 7